The BBC is reporting – online , on-radio and on-TV – on the thousands of letters to be sent out to illegal file sharers in UK on behalf of the BPI. 800 have already been sent out via Virgin Media. These are first steps, and though already criticized, the libertarians (mischievously referred to as ‘Freetards’ in some circles) should consider the comparatively liberal nature of the approach currently being pursued compared to those in the US and in France.
Realistically speaking the UK music industry’s activity with ISPs (in its current cooperative phase at least) will not turn off the tap on the majority of file sharing (it will of course never be completely turned off, but no one is aiming for that). The activity does, though, have realistic chances have having meaningful impact.
The low hanging fruit are the (conscientious) families of file sharing kids. Imagine the situation: mum or dad picks up a letter from the door mat on the way out to work, realizing to their shock that their kids are using illegal file sharing networks. Not only are they likely to enforce some household discipline they’ll be amenable to paying an extra pound or two a month for a music service from their ISP which will give their kids some sort of alternative, and keep them off the virtual streets.
These may sound like modest objectives, but trimming a few percentage points off UK file sharing penetration and converting a share of those to new music services will have a meaningful impact on the UK music market, and will be an important first step in the broader process. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the next potential target groups (students away from home, independent young adults, Carphone Warehouse customers etc.) will prove far more challenging quarry.